Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers
Today in this place there were a range of questions, including the two that mentioned the appointment of Mr Fahey. We have seen the debate that has been carried out in the media for the last week or so continuing now in the chamber, leading up to the debate on what is going to happen around the legislation looking at the government's response to the disasters in Queensland.
Although it is very difficult to be surprised here very often, I am surprised that there would be any consideration of a process that is being put in place to engage the whole community in response to the unprecedented-and I use that word absolutely accurately-horror in Queensland from the flood destruction. One of the processes that the government has put forward is to have a special group looking at how the disaster response will be handled. That group will engage with people in Queensland at all levels-with industry, with the kinds of groups that have been set up already-to ensure that this response is the best it can possibly be. That is the role of government: to ensure that any response, to any action, is well thought out, well structured and, most importantly, responsive to the needs of those who are, in this case, severely disadvantaged.
One aspect of that has been to appoint a former finance minister, a man who is acknowledged as having great expertise-not just in government, because this decision looked at the kind of work Mr Fahey has done outside government, in particular the liaison he has done internationally in areas of sport and the work he has done in working with community organisations in other activities that he has succeeded most publicly in doing. I know that the opposition is very strong in saying this is by no means an attack on Mr Fahey. I accept that. However, attacking the process, attacking the decision to use this expertise, is actually saying that the government has no right to look at strategies that can be developed effectively and cooperatively and, most importantly, ensure that people see the importance of this particular process.
I know that members of the opposition have talked about other things that have cost more money-and that is true. But this particular process, the process that the government is bringing before the parliament, the $5.6 billion process, is responding to the awful circumstances that we all agree have impacted on the community in such an amazing way. Yesterday in this place we heard so many senators from across the country talking about the way what had happened in Queensland had impacted on them, the way the community had responded spontaneously to give in any way they could to be part of the solution. One of the elements of that solution will be the recovery process that has been developed by the government, while ensuring that there is the kind of openness and transparency we have just heard being put forward for an extended period of time as the way these things should occur. One of the strategies that the government is wanting to work on with all levels of government, industry and community is to engage a new group that is headed by Mr Fahey.
As to the personal attack on our minister: I know it is part of the political debate, I know that is the kind of thing that goes on in this place, but I object to it. There is no way that the personal attack on the expertise, the professionalism of our minister is part of a process that is trying to respond to a need. Everybody will have a role to play. No-one will be exempt from having some part to play in this response. Coincidentally, it is important to point out that Mr Fahey's position is not actually working with the finance minister; it is actually working with Minister McClelland and Minister Ludwig, who has special responsibility in this area. So the way the opposition have framed their questions today-and I know we will hear more of this in days to come-actually misses the point, misses the key aspect of the strategy and in fact is an inappropriate political attack in an area where what we are trying to do as a government, hopefully with the agreement and cooperation of everybody in the parliament, is look at a special need, an horrific need. In fact, as you know, Mr Deputy President, the full cost of what is happening in Queensland has yet to be finalised. Every day more work is being done to look at the destruction and to look at the cost of rebuilding Queensland. We need to have a cooperative result.